No Merry Christmas For the Bucs

How many ways can a football team lose a game?  When you’re 4-11, you find new ways every single week.

There were the Buccaneers, nursing a four-point lead in the closing minutes on Sunday against the Panthers.  They had a chance to extend it to seven.  Patrick Murray – who had already made four field goals – missed one that would’ve put Tampa Bay up by seven.

Admit it: you just knew Carolina would go down the field and win the game after that.  That’s what 4-11 teams do.  There was Chris Baker – jumping offside on 4th down – giving the Panthers new life.  Then Cam Newton – arguably my least-favorite player in the NFL – fumbling the shotgun snap, only to pick it up and run it into the end zone for the game-winner.

Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 19.

Winston continues to struggle with ball security.  He lost three more fumbles, the last of which led to a meltdown which I’m sure is already on every highlight reel across the country.  And lest we forget about the 100+ yard kickoff return that featured several missed tackles by the Bucs.

Does all of this sound familiar?  It should.  I’ve been writing about it all season, and Bucs fans have been seeing it for themselves all year.

Anyway, from all of us at Buccaneer Bri (which is actually just a one-man band for those who don’t know) Merry Christmas.  Some of us have to work our real jobs on Christmas Eve, and that group includes me.  And to my fellow fans: one more week of this torture!

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

 

 

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VIDEO: Bucs Introduced vs. Lions

File this one under the “better late than never” category.

 

I took this video when I was at Ray-Jay last Sunday, but am just getting around to putting it on the site now.  Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

No Defense, No Victory, Another 10-Loss Season

With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.

 

The Buccaneers lost again last night.  For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21.  For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback.  Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.

 

I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons.  That didn’t happen.  Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries.   But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do.  The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly.  Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway.  As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year.  At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.

 

So, what’s my big takeaway from this one?  Mike Smith’s defense still stinks.  Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?)  So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman.  If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith.  Koetter may very well be done as well.  But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.

 

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

A Disappointing, Chilly Day at Ray-Jay

On Sunday, I saw in person what I’ve been listening to on the internet and seeing on social media all season long: the Bucs are a bad team.  On Buccaneer Bri’s annual trip to Ray-Jay, the Bucs lost to the Lions, 24-21, on a field goal in the closing seconds.  But honestly, it shouldn’t have even been that close.

 

I saw with my own two eyes all of the reasons the Buccaneers are now 4-9.  They had five turnovers.  The tackling was terrible.  They have no pass rush.  None.  They never laid a finger on Matthew Stafford.  Heck, by my unofficial count, they only chased after him once….in the entire game…and that one play ended with a roughing the passer penalty.  The play-calling was questionable at times, as was the use of timeouts at the end of the game.

 

And yet, there they were, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

 

Do you think Mike Smith’s defense could do the job from there?  (insert sarcastic laugh here.)

 

Instead of me rambling on about how Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are doomed after the season, I will dedicate the rest of this article to my personal Ray-Jay experience, since I only get down there once a year.

 

It was chilly.  No, really.  I brought my jacket and wore jeans, and I needed both.  The two ladies who came to the game with me were shivering as well as the game went on.  This was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been to in Tampa.  But it beat the snow that fell back home while I was gone.

 

I know Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans.  But geez, did the entire state of Michigan fly in for this game?  It felt like there were as many Lions’ fans there as Bucs’ fans.  Detroit fans deserve praise for traveling en masse to support their team.  But it’s depressing for Tampa Bay fans like me, and ownership needs to do something to change that.

 

This was also my first time sitting in the upper deck.  I don’t think I will do it again, and it had nothing to do with how far away I was from the action.  There was absolutely no vibe upstairs.  It was like being in a library for much of the game.  I didn’t feel like I was part of the festivities at all.  Oh well, I chose to sit upstairs because the area where I usually sit was just too expensive.  From now on, I think I will just spend the extra bucks and go back down to the lower bowl.

 

There was a nice couple from Detroit sitting behind us.  They left before halftime, after Stafford threw his second pick.  The guy said, “same old Lions!”  I overheard the lady he was with talk about going to the movies.  I hope they made it in time, if that’s in fact where they ended up.  For all I know, they may just have been sick of me yelling and trying to the enjoy the game in a morgue-like atmosphere, and they have just moved to another section.  Where they ended up is a question I will likely never know the answer to.

 

So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The Bucs have three more games left – all of them against division opponents – and in case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the division is really, really good.  I can easily see the Bucs finishing 4-12.  They’re on Monday Night Football next week against Atlanta.  Jon Gruden will be calling the game, then he’ll be honored at halftime.  If the ceremony is streamed live someplace, that may very well be the best part of the night.

 

Photo Courtesy: Me

Overtime Letdown: Bucs Lose…Again

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

 

This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.  Let me count the ways:

 

Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house.  Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone.  He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.

 

That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth.  The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime.  And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling?  Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.

 

Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game.  They didn’t even come close.

 

While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown.  Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.

 

And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time.  The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber.  Go figure.

 

Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7.  This loss means they will not match their win total of last year.  It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.

 

Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay.  Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one.  So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

Another Tampa Bay Loss, Another Tampa Bay Rant

I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose. 

 

The offense can’t score early in the game.  The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring.  The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired.  And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.

 

Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season.  Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game.  But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards?  You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu.  You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.

 

This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down.  The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game.  That is insane.  And it’s been happening all year long.  And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either.  A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease.  How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?

 

Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.

 

That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling.  After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone.  With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19.  Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete.  This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays?  As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn.  If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense.  So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.

 

Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.

 

But that’s not the only questionable play-calling.  Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard.  Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?

 

I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith.  The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that.  On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate.  I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there.  That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.

 

OK – rant over.

 

Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Bucs Win Again Thanks to Self-Destructing Dolphins

Let’s call this one, winning ugly…part two.

 

For those who didn’t see (or listen to) this game in Miami, you’d look at the final score and think the Buccaneers dominated the Dolphins.  Oh, how wrong you’d be.

 

The Bucs won the game when Patrick Murray split the uprights with four seconds left on the clock.  But let’s talk about the bad football that preceded much of the winning kick.

 

The Bucs won this game because of two things: Jay Cuter and all those Miami penalties.  Tampa Bay picked off Cutler three times in the first half and also recovered a fumble.  But in true Bucs’ fashion, they only led by 13 points at the half.  At the time, I said to myself, “this is going to come back to haunt them.”

 

And it did.  Matt Moore came in for Cutler in the second half and lit up the Bucs defense like so many other quarterbacks (including some backups) have.  The Bucs nearly gave up a safety that could’ve really changed things in the fourth quarter.  Still, the Dolphins tied the game on one of those “how the heck do you let him get that wide open?” kind of deep throws.  As if you needed any more proof that Mike Smith’s defense is horrendous.

 

But there were all those penalties against the Dolphins – a whopping 17 of them – that helped the Buccaneers’ cause.  The Bucs had nine penalties of their own, including one that negated a touchdown.  It was just bad football.

 

Of course, this was a win, so there are positives.  O.J. Howard had one of the Bucs’ two touchdowns, on his birthday no less.  Happy birthday, O.J.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to perform admirably in Jameis Winston’s absence.  Fitzpatrick will never be mistaken for Tom Brady, but he’s been efficient.  And he’s won two games with basically no running game and a swiss cheese defense.

 

Patrick Murray continues to make us forget about Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk.  Murray did miss a kick earlier in the game, but made the game-winner, and has played well since the Bucs re-acquired him.

 

On to Atlanta….

 

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times